Former minister Jo Swinson has spoken of the “delicious” moment she was mistaken for a secretary by a senior government official.
The ex-MP, an equalities minister in the coalition government, was speaking about the difficulties faced by women in the workplace.
She said the official was mortified when he realised his mistake.
The former Lib Dem MP, who lost her seat at May’s general election, pushed through reforms allowing shared parental leave, seen as one of the biggest changes in employment law under the coalition.
She spoke out against all-women shortlists at a Liberal Reform fringe meeting at the party’s conference in Bournemouth. But she argued that some state intervention and positive discrimination was needed to shift ingrained cultural attitudes, offering an insight into her own experience at the heart of government.
“I remember as a minister, when I was making a public appointment, the officer for public appointments was coming along to discuss who we were going to appoint to this position and the interview process,” she said.
“And basically came into my office and talked to me with the clear assumption that he thought I was the secretary to the minister.
It was wonderful – the look on his face when he realised his mistake.”
And the lesson from this is one for us men not to assume that when we go to a meeting with someone whom we do not know that it will be with another man! Equalities clearly has some way to go.
With thanks to Jen Robertson for the lead to this story.